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Delayed primary repair of flexor tendon injury in distal forearm
By
Author No 1:
Gulzar Saeed Ahmed
MBBS. FCPS
Associate Prof. Orthopedic Surgery
Liaquat University of Medical & Health Sciences
Jamshoro Sindh Pakistan.
Author No 2:
Syed Muhammad Ali
MBBS,FCPS
Assistant Prof. Orthopedic surgery
Liaquat University of Medical & Health Sciences
Jamshoro Sindh Pakistan.
Author No 3:
Dr Mohammad Arif
FCPS (Ortho)
Professor HOD
Department of Orthopedic and Spine Surgery
Hayatabad Medical Complex
Peshawar Pakistan
Author No 3:
Dr Muhammad Inam
MRCS, FCPS (Ortho)
Senior Registrar
Department of Orthopedic and Spine Surgery
Hayatabad Medical Complex
Peshawar Pakistan
Correspondence:
Dr. Gulzar Saeed Ahmed
A-9 block C, unit-6 Latifabad Hyderabad.
Sindh Pakistan
Phone: +92 333 2601173
E-mail: [email protected]
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Delayed Primary Repair of Flexor Tendon Injury in Distal Forearm
Gulzar Saeed Ahmed, Syed Muhammad Ali, Mohammad Arif, Muhammad Inam
Department of Orthopedic Surgery Liaquat University of Medical & Health Sciences
Jamshoro Sindh and Department of Orthopedic and Spine Surgery Hayatabad Medical
Complex Peshawar Pakistan
ABSTRACT
Introduction: Injuries to the flexor tendons are common. For the management of
tendon injury, many repair techniques and modified rehabilitation programs have been
reported. The basic aim is to prevent adhesions, gap formation and post operative
rupture. The aim of this study was to analyze the results of delayed primary tendon
repair using modified Kessler technique in patients with flexor tendon injury in distal
forearm (hand zone V).
Material and Methods: The study was conducted at Liaquat University Hospital and a
private practice setup from January 2010 to December 2011. A total of 50 adult patients
were included in the study. The inclusion criteria were adult patients having injury with
sharp objects in zone five, presenting between 24 hours to 10 ten days after injury. The
exclusion criteria were associated vascular injury requiring repair, nerve injury, diabetes
mellitus, infection, and segmental loss in tendons. The primary outcome measures
were, painless movement of tendon, full range of movement of finger or wrist joint
associated with the repaired tendon. Secondary outcome measures were infection,
limitation or painful movement of tendons, adhesions, dehiscence of repair leading to
tendon rupture at the repair site. Surgery was performed under general anesthesia and
tourniquet. The tendons were repaired with 3/0 proline, using modified Kessler
technique. Post operatively, controlled active motion program as advised by Kleinert et
al was followed.
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Results: Out of 50,thirty eight (76%) were male and 12 (24%) were female. The age
range was between 20 to 65 years. Mean age + SD,34.40+12.49.The injury was caused
by knife in 18(36%), glass in 16(32%), hatchet in 13(26%) and machine in 3 (6%)
patients. Total number of tendon repaired was 115. (2.3 per patient). Tendon repair
was performed within 24 hours of admission in all patients. Modified Kessler technique
was performed in all tendons repairs. Thirty eight out of 50(76%) patients recovered
fully and regained full range of pain free movement at wrist and fingers in 8 to 12 weeks
time. Mean time of recovery + SD (Range) 8.88+1.319. Six patients (12%) developed
early post operative superficial infection. These patients responded well to treatment
and recovered normally in 8 to 12 weeks time. Four (8%) patients develop adhesions
resulting in limitation of movement at fingers, and two (4%) patients develop rupture of
tendon at the suture site, requiring second surgery.
Conclusion: Modified Kesslers suture technique of tendon repair is effective for
delayed primary repair of flexor tendon injury in distal forearm (zone V).
Key words: tendon, repair, Modified Kessler.
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INTRODUCTION
Injuries to the flexor tendons are common. As the flexor tendon in hand and forearm lie
close the skin, the usual causes are, lacerations from sharp objects, crush injuries and
sometime rupture from the site of insertion at bone during contact sports. These injuries
could pose a challenge to orthopedic surgeon. The surgical intervention is always
required to bring the ends together. The post operative management requires a careful
planning as mobilization is essential to prevent adhesions and the risk of rupture is
always there1.
If the tendon is repaired within 12 hours of injury it is called primary tendon repair. In
rare circumstances this time can be extended up to 24 hours. The delayed primary
repair is the one which is performed within 24 hours to approximately 10 days after the
injury. After 10 to 14 days the repair is called secondary repair, and after four weeks, it
is called late secondary repair2.
The flexor surface of hand is divided into five zones. Zone I extends from just distal to
the insertion of the sublimis tendon to the site of insertion of the profundus tendon. Zone
II is the area between the distal palmar crease and the insertion of sublimis tendon.
Zone III is the area between distal margin of transverse carpal ligament and the
beginning of the area of pulleys or first annulus. Zone IV is the area covered by the
transverse carpal ligament. Zone V is the area proximal to the transverse carpal
ligament and includes the forearm3.
The repair of tendons can be delayed for various reasons, e.g. other injuries requiring
immediate surgical intervention, severe wound contamination, crushing injuries, soft
tissue loss and multiple fractures. Under these circumstances, the condition of patient
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does not allow the definitive treatment of the tendons, and it is advised that wound
should be kept clean and dressed till it becomes possible to carry out definitive
management of tendon injury. A delay of two to three days has very low risk of
complications if the wound is kept clean2.
For the management of tendon injury, many repair techniques have been reported. The
basic aim is to prevent adhesions, gap formation and post operative rupture. Modified
rehabilitation programs have been developed to improve the results of surgery4.
There has been a lot of stress for strong suture techniques as early post operative
movement protocols have shown good results. Many reports suggest that more suture
strands passing through the repair field increase stretching strength 5.
But this type of complex suture techniques are difficult to perform and excessive
manipulation of the tissues is required6. Modified Kessler technique is relatively easy to
perform.
There are various complications of tendon surgery. The immediate complications could
be infection, tendon rupture, poor tendon gliding, and later on adhesion formation7. In
our setup many patients with tendon injury present late. The aim of this study was to
analyze the results of delayed primary tendon repair using modified Kessler technique
in patients with flexor tendon injury in distal forearm (hand zone V).
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Material and Methods:
The study was conducted at Liaquat University Hospital and a private practice setup
from January 2010 to December 2011. A total of 50 adult patients were included in the
study. The inclusion criteria were adult patients having injury with sharp objects in zone
five. The exclusion criteria was associated vascular injury requiring repair, nerve injury,
diabetes mellitus, infection, segmental loss in tendons, tendon injury more than ten days
old. The primary outcome measures were, painless movement of tendon, full range of
movement of finger or wrist joint associated with the repaired tendon. Secondary
outcome measures were infection, limitation or painful movement of tendons,
adhesions, dehiscence of repair leading to tendon rupture at the repair site. Patients
presenting between 24 hours to 10 ten days after injury were included in the study.
At the time of admission history was taken and specially, mechanism of injury, time
elapsed since injury was noted. Patients were also asked about the previous injury in
the same region. General Physical examination and examination of both hands was
carried out systematically. The site and size of wound were checked and recorded.
Flexor digitorum superficialis and profundus and wrist flexors were checked individually.
Flexor digitorum superficialis was noted intact when all the adjacent digits were held
with all joints in extension and the patient was able to flex the finger at the proximal
interphalangeal joint. The flexor digitorum profundus, was noted intact if the middle
phalanx was kept in extension and the patient is able to flex the distal interphalangeal
joint. The flexor carpi radialis and flexor carpi ulnaris and flexor polices longus were
also checked and noted. Radiographs were taken to exclude fractures. The vascular
status of limb, radial, ulnar and median nerves were also checked and noted.
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Surgery was performed under general anesthesia and tourniquet. Prophylactic
antibiotics (first generation cephalosporins) were given at the induction of anesthesia.
The wound debridement was done and wounds were extended to expose the tendons
ends. The tendons ends were carefully matched, with attention to their location and
level of wound. The tendons were repaired with 3/0 proline, using modified Kessler
technique (Figure 1).
A suture was passed through the tip of the finger nail for
controlled active motion programme as advised by Kleinert et al 8.1 The wound was
closed with 3/0 proline.
A dorsal splint was applied to hold the wrist in 30 degrees of flexion and
metacarpophalangeal joint at 40 to 60 degrees of flexion. The interphalangeal joints
were splinted in extension. The suture placed at the finger tip was attached to a rubber
band and the other end of rubber band was attached to safety pin which in turn was
attached to the bandage on distal forearm. This arrangement keep the finger in flexion
of 40 to 60 degrees at the proximal interphalangeal joint with no tension on the rubber
band, and allows active extension at proximal interphalangeal joint. Starting from the
first day after surgery, active extension exercises within the limitation of splint were
encouraged. After three weeks the dorsal splint was removed, and rubber band with
connecting hook to the wrist band was kept on for additional 3 weeks. The patient was
encouraged to actively extend the digit against the resistance of the rubber band.
Passive extension and active flexion was not permitted. The rubber band and wrist band
was removed at 6 to 8 weeks. Strengthening exercises were allowed at 8 to 10 weeks.
In patients with isolated flexor carpi radialis and flexor carpi ulnaris injury, the repair in
zone V was performed with 3/0 proline with modified Kessler technique and post
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operatively the wrist was immobilized with dorsal splint in 30 degrees of flexion. The
splint was kept on for 6 to 8 weeks.
The skin stitches were removed after two weeks in all patients. In case infection was
detected the skin stitches were removed earlier2.
The data was entered and analyzed in statistical program SPSS Version 16.0.
Qualitative variable such as Gender, mechanism of injury, complication, tendon repair
and outcome (Good & Poor) were presented as n (%). Numerical variable like age (In
Years), time of injury and recovery were presented as mean + SD. No statistical test
was applied due to descriptive data.
RESULTS:
A total of 50 patients were included in the study. Thirty eight (76%) were male and 12
(24%) were female. The age range was between 20 to 65 years. Mean age +
SD,34.40+12.49.
The injury was caused by knife in 18(36%), glass in 16(32%), hatchet in 13(26%) and
machine in 3 (6%) patients. Most of the injuries were in the distal part of forearm
proximal to transverse carpal ligament. Fifteen patients reported 2 days, 23 patients 4
days and 8 patients 5 days and 4 patients 7 days after injury. Meantime b/w injury
&admission + SD (Range) 3.80+1.44 (2-7 days). (Table No. 1)
Total number of tendon repaired was 115. (2.3 per patient). Tendon repair was
performed within 24 hours of admission in all patients. Modified Kessler technique was
performed in all tendons repairs. Thirty eight out of 50(76%) patients recovered fully and
regained full range of pain free movement at wrist and fingers in 8 to 12 weeks time.
Mean time of recovery + SD (Range) 8.88+1.319 (8 – 12 weeks).
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Complications were detected in 12(24%) patients. Six patients( 12%) developed early
post operative infection, four (8%) patients develop adhesions resulting in limitation of
movement at fingers, and two(4%) patients who remove the posterior splint 2 to 3
weeks after surgery develop rupture of tendon at the suture site.
Six patients with early post operative infection were treated with early removal of
stitches, debridement and antibiotics according to culture and sensitivity. The infection
was superficial and confined to skin. All the six patients responded very well and their
later recovery was normal.
Four patients who develop adhesions, were non compliant to the early mobilization
instructions. They did not regained full range of movements up to 12 weeks after repair.
These four patients were operated for tenolysis 4 to 5 months after surgery and they
recovered and regained full range of movement with 13 weeks of second surgery.
Two patients develop rupture of tendon at the suture line within three weeks after
surgery. They were operated again and the results were fair as the healed with some
limitation of movement.
The overall results were poor in 6 (12%) and good in 44(88%) of patients. (Table No: 2).
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DISCUSSION
The Infection rate in our series was 12% which is very high by any standard. The
infection was superficial and did not affect the final outcome in term of function. Reason
for this high infection rate could be that all cases included in the study were presented
late and delayed primary repair was done in all cases.
It has been shown in many studies that the strength of flexor tendon repair is directly
proportional to the number of threads crossing the repair site9. Other studies have
shown that this multi stands technique need lot of expertise and experience, because
tendon handling is increased, as needle is passed many time through cut ends. This
may results into complications like uneven loading of tendons1. A two strand tendon
repair done with 4/0 suture has breaking strength of 20 to 30 N which is equal to
approximately 2to 3 kg of force10,11. Thicker sutures and multiple strands can increase
the strength of repair up to 70 N12 . It has also been said that increased breaking
strength may not improve the quality of repair. As before breaking the repair starts to
gap, gaping tendons increase friction13,14 .
Levent et,al have shown that average tensile strength of 2 stand modified Kessler
suture was 39.89±9.65 Newton (N), for 4 strand modified Kessler suture was
50.29±11.24 N and for 4 strand Strickland technique the strength was 39.64±9.14 N15 .
We found that the strength of modified Kessler suture was enough to sustain the
postoperative stress at repair site as only two out of fifty patients (4%) develop rupture
at repair site. The patients were non compliant to the rehabilitation program.
There is huge evidence that careful rehabilitation program is mandatory to achieve
favorable results. The early motion techniques have improved tendon healing with fewer
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complications and with better outcome16 . We followed the controlled active motion
program as advocated by Kleinert et al8. With this technique it is believed that repair site
is not stretched and the movement promotes healing. It is observed that mobilized
tendon heal quicker and develop greater strength and fewer adhesions as compared to
immobilized tendons17.
Reoperation rate in our series was 12% (6/50). Dy CJ et al in their meta-analysis of 29
studies have reported 6% reoperation rate, 4% rupture and 4% adhesions18. Saini N et
al has reported 3% tendon rupture, and 3% contracture 19. Elliot D et al reported 3-9%
rupture rate20.
Adhesion rate in our series was 8%. This is high as compared to the literature, and the
reason is non compliance of patients to the early mobilization instructions. Manske PR
was of the opinion that rupture can be due to the misuse of hand and up to 20% of
patients will develop adhesions requiring tenolysis21.
CONCLUSION
Modified Kesslers suture technique of tendon repair is effective for delayed primary
repair of flexor tendon injury in distal forearm (zone V).
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Copyright © 2007 Mosby.
3. Green DP, Pederson WC, Hotchkiss RN, Wolfe SW, Eds. Greens Operative
Hand Surgery. 5th ed. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: Elsevier Churchill 2005.
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mobilization. Part II: Clinical experience. J Hand Surg [Am] 1990;15:953-8.
5. Winters SC, Gelberman RH, Woo SL, Chan SS, Grewal R, Seiler JG 3rd. The
effects of multiple-strand suture methods on the strength and excursion of
repaired intrasynovial flexor tendons: a biomechanical study in dogs. J Hand
Surg [Am] 1998; 23: 97- 104.
6. Wagner WF Jr, Carroll C IV, Strickland JW, Heck DA, Toombs JP. A
biomechanical comparison of techniques of flexor tendon repair. J Hand Surg
[Am] 1994;19:979-83.
7. Ting J. Tendon injuries across the world. Injury 2006; 37:1036-42
8. Kleinert HE, Meares A: In quest of the solution to severed flexor tendons. Clin
Orthop Relat Res 1974; 104:23
9. Savage R. In vitro studies of a new method of flexor tendon repair. J Hand Surg
1985; 10B:135-41.
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10. Tanaka T, Amadio PC, Zhao C, et al. Gliding characteristics and gap formation
for locking and grasping tendon repairs: A biomechanical study in a human
cadaver model. J Hand Surg [Am] 2004;29:6–14.
11. Momose T, Amadio PC, Zhao C, et al. Suture techniques with high breaking
strength and low gliding resistance: experiments in the dog flexor digitorum
profundus tendon. Acta Orthop Scand 2001;72:635–41.
12. Erhard L, Zobitz ME, Zhao C, et al. Treatment of partial lacerations in flexor
tendons by trimming: a biomechanical in vitro study. J Bone Joint Surg [Am]
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tendon repair: a biomechanical study. J Hand Surg [Br] 1995;20:573–7.
14. Dinopoulos HT, Boyer MI, Burns ME, et al. The resistance of a four- and eightstrand suture technique to gap formation during tensile testing: an experimental
study of repaired canine flexor tendons after 10 days of in vivo healing. J Hand
Surg [Am] 2000;25:489–98.
15. Levent YALÇIN, M. Selman DEM‹RC, Mehmet ALP, Salih Murat AKKIN, Burak
fiENER, Jürgen KOEBKE. Biomechanical assessment of suture techniques used
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Modified Kessler suture.
Figure Error! Main Document Only.
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Baseline Characteristicsof the Patients (n=50)
Baseline Characteristics
Mean+ SD(Range)
Mean age + SD (Range)
Meantime b/w injury &admission + SD(Range)
Meantimeof recovery + SD(Range)
Gender
Male
Female
Mechanism of Injury
Glass
Hatchet
Knife
Machine
n(%)
34.40+12.49(20 -65 years)
3.80+1.44(2-7 days)
8.88+1.319 (8 – 12 weeks)
Table No. 1
38(76.0%)
12(24.0%)
16(32.0%)
13(26.0%)
18(36.0%)
3(6.0%)
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Frequency of Complications & outcome (n=50)
Complications
Number
Percentage
Infections
Adhesion
Rupture
06
04
02
12.0%
8.0%
4.0%
Out comes
Poor
Good
6
44
12.0%
88.0%
Table No.2
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Delayed primary repair of flexor tendon injury of hand. final